Gulf of Aden Security Review

A regularly updated review of both Yemen and the Horn of Africa covering topics related to security, governance, and militant activity.

Yemen: U.S. Department of State adds senior AQAP member to designated terrorist list; al Houthi-Saleh forces fire missiles at Hadi government forces near Bab al Mandeb strait; Emirati-backed counterterrorism forces interdict vehicle carrying IED components in Aden city; al Houthi-Saleh forces claim to fire ballistic missile at Hadi government forces in northwestern Shabwah governorate; Hadi government forces seize mountains in northwestern Taiz governorate; al Houthi-Saleh forces shell Hadi government position in northwestern Lahij governorate

Horn of Africa: U.S. State Department expresses concern for Somalia’s electoral process; NISA detains nine al Shabaab suspects after UNDP bombing in Mogadishu

Yemen Security Brief

  • The U.S. Department of State designated senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) member Ibrahim al Banna as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on January 5. Ibrahim al Banna advised senior AQAP leadership on military and security matters and served as AQAP’s security chief. Al Banna also praised the September 11, 2001 attacks in AQAP’s English-language magazine, Inspire. He was a senior leader in Egyptian Islamic Jihad in Yemen during the 1990s.[1]
  • Al Houthi-Saleh forces launched multiple missiles at the Sha’ab base in Lahij governorate near the Bab al Mandeb strait. Forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government control the base. Al Houthi-Saleh Tochka missiles struck the base on January 5, killing at least five Hadi government troops. Al Houthi-Saleh forces also fired a ballistic missile targeting Hadi government and popular resistance forces at Sha’ab base on January 4. Saudi-led coalition Patriot air defense systems intercepted the missile. Coalition warplanes bombed al Houthi-Saleh missile platforms in Dhubab district, southwestern Taiz governorate on January 4.[2]
  • Emirati-backed al Hizam security forces interdicted a vehicle carrying components used to build vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) as it attempted to enter Aden city on January 5. Al Hizam forces also found pieces of Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) propaganda in the vehicle. An al Hizam spokesman claimed that the militants traveled from al Bayda governorate in central Yemen, where ISIS maintains a small presence. ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan conducted two suicide vest attacks on a military base in Aden on December 10 and 18, killing more than 100 people. Militants last conducted a suicide VBIED attack in Aden city on October 29. No group claimed the attack.[3]
  • Al Houthi-Saleh forces claimed to fire a Zilzal-2 ballistic missile at Hadi government and popular resistance forces in the al Sa’aq area of northwestern Shabwah governorate on January 5. The missile launch followed the Hadi government’s reported seizure of al Sa’aq on January 5. Hadi government forces renewed an offensive in Shabwah on December 27th by seizing territory in northern Bayhan and Usaylan districts.[4]
  • Hadi government forces claimed to advance on Maqbanah district in northwestern Taiz governorate. Hadi government sources reported that Hadi government forces seized Jebel Owaid, Jebel al Hasan, and the Abdelh mountainous regions after clashes with al Houthi-Saleh forces on January 5. The Saudi-led coalition also struck a radio camp in Hawban, east of Taiz city, on January 5.[5]
  • Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed al Houthi-Saleh forces in Sharija village, northwestern Lahij governorate on January 5. Al Houthi-Saleh forces shelled Hadi government and popular resistance forces in nearby Kirsh, northwestern Lahij governorate, on January 5 following the Saudi-led coalition attack.[6]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • The U.S. Department of State praised the inauguration of Somalia’s incoming Federal Parliament but expressed concern over reports of widespread fraud, manipulation, and intimidation in the electoral process. The statement stressed the need for Somalia’s National Leadership Forum to practice credibility and transparency in order to facilitate secure elections and strengthen the Somali state. Incidents that have compromised the elections include candidates paying for votes and soldiers detaining and beating female nominees to force them to withdraw. The State Department statement also condemned recent al Shabaab attacks in Mogadishu.[7]
  • Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) arrested nine suspected al Shabaab militants in response to a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack inside the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) compound in Mogadishu on January 4. The bombing wounded four UN security guards. NISA also seized two garages and recovered a vehicle allegedly linked to al Shabaab members.[8]


[1] “State Department Terrorist Designation of Ibrahim al-Banna,” U.S. Department of State, January 5, 2017,
[2] “Coalition waging 22 raids on al Houthi positions and ballistic targeting government forces in Kahboub,” al Masdar, January 5, 2017,; “Targeting a gathering of mercenaries in Sha’af camp with a ballistic missile,” al Masirah, January 5, 2017,; “Giant ordnance hits militias sites north Kahboub Front,” Aden Lang, January 4, 2017,; and “5 martyrs and 12 wounded resistance in Bab al-Mandab rocket attack from the al Houthis” Aden Tomorrow, January 5, 2017,
[3] “Urgent: al Hizam forces intercept bus carrying explosives at the entrance to the east of Aden (photos),” Aden Times, January 5, 2017,
[4] “Zilzal-2 Hits Mercenary Gatherings in al Saq area of Shabwah province,” al Masirah, January 5, 2017, and “The Hills of Mikaria and Bayhan are liberated in Shabwah,” al Ghad al Yemeny, January 3, 2017,
[5] “National Army forces seize Western Taiz,” Barakish, January 5, 2017, and “Coalition Aircraft Target Radio Camps East of Taiz,” Aden Lange, January 5, 2017,
[6] “Al Houthi militias targeting villages in Kirsh with Katyushas and Howitzer mortars hours after air strikes by coalition forces,” Aden Lang, January 5, 2017,
[7] “The United States Urges Momentum in Somalia’s Electoral Process,” U.S. State Department, January 4, 2017,; and “Can the credibility of Somalia’s indirect elections be salvaged,” African Arguments, January 5, 2017,
[8] “NISA Detains 9 Al-Shabaab Suspects After Car Bomb In Mogadishu Somalia,” Intelligence Briefs, January 5, 2017,
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